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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Jobs and shows to be cut at BBC Radio Cumbria

Radio Cumbria is to cut local programming and jobs after an eight-month review of local radio by the BBC.

Julie Clayton photo
Julie Clayton

The 30 or so workers at Radio Cumbria were told yesterday that they were facing cuts of nine per cent, compared to 11 per cent nationally. It is believed the cuts could equate to three or four job losses which the BBC hopes will be voluntary.

The news, however, was not as bad as initially feared when it was announced last year that the station could face cuts of nine jobs and the loss of 50 hours of local programming.

Staff were told in meetings with new station editor Mark Elliott yesterday. Fifteen hours of local programming will be cut and the 7pm to 10pm slot will be changed to an ‘all England’ programme.

BBC Radio Cumbria NUJ representative Julie Clayton said the cuts would affect “some of our most popular presenters”.

“Nine per cent cuts won’t be easy to achieve and it will mean unwelcome changes that will be noticed by the listeners,” she said.

“But compared to the BBC’s original plans to cut our budget by 20 per cent and get rid of a third of our staff, it’s not as bad as it could have been.”

Ms Clayton said the cuts would mean more job losses from the station, which earlier this year saw former editor Nigel Dyson step down after 14 years at the station and 36 with the BBC.

The BBC announced last year that local radio was facing cuts under the Delivering Quality First plans and a review was carried out by the BBC Trust.

The station initially feared it stood to lose 9.4 full-time-equivalent posts, which equates to 12 or 13 members of staff – a third of the workforce, and 50 hours of local programming.

That prompted a campaign by local politicians to save Radio Cumbria, with council leader Mike Mitchelson urging listeners to lobby the BBC Trust.

The trust then announced in February that the BBC could not make the massive cuts to local radio initially planned.

“We’re pleased that the trust listened to the views of Cumbrians and asked the BBC to think again,” Ms Clayton said.

“It shows that our unique role is valued by our listeners and all the team are grateful to the people and politicians who made a strong case for BBC local radio.”

Mr Elliott was unavailable for comment today but it is understood consultation on voluntary redundancies began yesterday.

Lord Patten, BBC Trust Chairman, said yesterday marked “the end of a lengthy process for the BBC”.

“Delivering the changes we have approved will be challenging but they are necessary,” he said.

“We’ve listened carefully to the views of those who care about the BBC, and taken our time to get this right, encouraging the executive to amend plans where we think they need further thought, as the changes to local radio proposals show.

“Our focus now is to ensure that audiences notice as little change as possible to the services they know and love, and we will be monitoring audience reactions very carefully through our ongoing programme of reviews and reports.”

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